I once gave a talk about deep change to a group of venture capitalists and CEOs of start-up firms. A woman I will call Anna came up to tell me her own story of self change. She began with a declaration: “I have a very unique skill. I create companies. I bring people together, and out of nothing, I make something. That is what I do.” Although she said this with enormous confidence, it was not a statement of hubris. Rather, she spoke with a sense of wonder. It was as if she was being vitalized by this recognition of her own ability.
I was impressed. Imagine being confident that you can enter new situations and bring people together in such a way that a new company emerges. This is adaptive confidence — the belief in one’s capacity to lead deep change. I asked her how she had acquired this capacity.
“I went through a terrible life crisis,” she said. “I was without work. I hungered to get back into my comfort zone. So I took a job just like the one I was in before. After three months, I realized that I had made a mistake. So I decided to leave my job and live without an income. Previously I thought people loved me because I made money, I discovered that they loved me because of who I am. I discovered that I could do things I did not know I could do. I gained a new identity and a higher level of confidence in myself. I could see in new ways and I was not afraid to try new things.
Turning points cause us to see ourselves differently. Whether they result from positive or negative events, they capture our attention and invite a new definition of self. When this happens, we, like Anna, discover two things for sure: we know that we can change, and thus we know that others can change too. This knowledge is essential to people who seek to lead deep change. As we use self-reflection to grow and become more positive and more influential, we acquire the desire to change our external context, a trait sometimes called developmental readiness (Avolio and Hannah, 2008). This may create a virtuous cycle of initiative and learning. Living in this cycle we become empowered and empowering to others.
- The Deep Change Field Guide, p. 73-73